These are the Champions

I thoroughly enjoyed today’s UEFA Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund this afternoon.  Fox aired it on its main network, as opposed to Fox Soccer, and I hope it led to casual soccer fans – or, even better, non-fans – sitting down for a couple hours and watching.  It was a fantastic match that featured an underdog taking it to the favorite, late-match tension, and a hard-luck past loser (as much as one can call one of the world’s biggest clubs “hard-luck”) getting a monkey off its back.

Bayern Munich has now won five Champions League titles, tied with Liverpool (yes, believe it or not, they used to be good) for third all-time.  More famously, however, Bayern took a 1-0 lead into stoppage time before Manchester United scored two goals in stoppage time (of course) to take the 1999 Champions League final  In 2010, Bayern lost the final to Inter Milan, and last season, an 83rd-minute Bayern goal was canceled out by an 88th-minute goal from Chelsea’s Didier Drogba to send the final, held at Bayern’s home ground, to extra time.  In extra time, Bayern star Arjen Robben missed a penalty that might have won the match; Drogba then converted the clinching kick in the shootout to give the Blues the title.

So when Robben slotted home today’s winner in the 89th minute, the emotional release was genuine; one of the world’s top players erased some pretty painful memories for both himself and his club.

I felt like Dortmund missed its opportunity in the first half.  Both keepers played out of their minds, and the underdogs dominated the run of play.  It reminded me of this year’s NBA playoffs, when Golden State maybe should have won game one in San Antonio; even though they won game two, it certainly seemed like they missed their chance, and San Antonio went on to win in six.  Same thing with Indiana; they blew game one in Miami, and even though they won game two, it still feels like an opportunity was lost.  Dortmund had its chance to win the match in the first 45, but couldn’t do it.

Then Robben struck in the 60th minute with a pinpoint pass as he was heading out of bounds that set up Mario Mandzukic for a goal.  In retrospect, it was offside, but nonetheless, when it happened, I thought, “well, there you go.”  But Dortmund battled back and earned a penalty eight minutes later; rather, Marco Reus earned a penalty by getting kneed in the chest and kicked in the groin.  Ilkay Gundogan converted, and things were level.

Until the 89th minute.  Until Arjen Robben.  It always had to be Robben.

If every soccer match was like this one, maybe Americans would catch up to the rest of the world.  Then again, for those of us who already love the game, it was a fantastic little gem that I personally have no problem keeping for myself.

It’s out there, people, and it’s grand.  Ignore it to your own detriment.

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